To Know Him Is To Trust Him

A verse in Psalms this morning has me chewing on the dynamics of faith.

How many of us haven’t, at one time or another, felt the need for greater faith? A longing for a more deeply operational belief? A faith that repels fear. A conviction that quells anxiety? A confidence that exudes a calm amidst life’s storms?

A line in one of David’s songs suggests that at least part of realizing a dynamic faith in God is tied to a greater working knowledge of God.

That to know Him is to trust Him.

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.

(Psalm 9:9-10 ESV)

How often we equate faith with what we feel. When, if David is correct, faith may be more tied to what we know. Tied to Who we know.

God has revealed Himself. Speaking to us in these last days by His Son, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb. 1:2-3). Thus, as Jesus Himself asserted, to know the Son is to the know the Father (Jn. 14:9).

And, while not yet face to face, we can know the living and reigning Son of God. And that, through the living and active Word of God. Illuminated for us, and revealed to us, by the living and indwelling Spirit of God. That’s a lot of living.

Thus, there is available to us a knowledge of God beyond just theory and realized more actively through experience. Not just facts and data to be stored away, but encounters of the divine kind which renew and transform. Not just attributes of some distant deity to be memorized and recited, but acquaintance with the living God who, the more we interact with Him through His Word, the more we know we can trust Him with our lives.

“Ignorance,” according to Spurgeon, “is worst when it amounts to ignorance of God.” How we hamstring ourselves when we fail to pursue knowing the Name. When we consider as optional growing increasingly familiar with our Creator.

Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). And, without knowing God it really is pretty hard to trust God.

To know Him is to trust Him.

Possible because of His grace. Desirable, ultimately, for His glory.

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As He Had Said . . . As He Had Promised

Chewing on a pretty straight forward statement of fact in Genesis from long ago which, it seems to me, has some pretty far reaching implications for doing life here today.

The LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as He had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him.

(Genesis 21:1-2 ESV)

As He had said. As He had promised.

Behold our God! That’s how He rolls.

The “Canaan or bust” faith journey of a 75 year old Abraham (Gen. 12:4) and his 65 year old wife, Sarah, was ambitious by any stretch of the imagination. Not typically the season of life when folks are looking for a major change. Much less one that involves going without knowing (Heb. 11:8).

But go they did. To a new land. With a new hope. Told they would have a new family. But with bodies that were anything but new.

Abraham’s 75 became, way too quickly, the burning of 99 candles on the birthday cake. And Sarah’s 65 year old womb, which had been unable to bear children thus far, wasn’t any more likely to cooperate after another 24 hard years of aging upon it. The Scriptures stating explicitly, “The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah” (Gen. 18:11). No wonder that, when God reiterated His promise that Sarah would give birth to a son, that both old man and old wife laughed to themselves at the absurdity of continuing to hold on to such hope (17:17, 18:12).

But conceive Sarah did. As God had said. As God had promised.

“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14 ESV)

Nope! Not then. Not now.

And Sarah’s experience is my encouragement. What God has said, what God has promised, God will do.

So, I gotta know what God says and what God promises. Thank you, Lord, for Your Word and for the Spirit in me Who illuminates, revelates, and habituates Your truth within me. Keep me coming back to it.

And, I gotta believe what God says and what God promises. I do believe, help my unbelief. Nurture faith. Forgive doubt. Take my mustard seeds of faith and allow them to grow into mighty refuges of trust.

And, I gotta walk in anticipation of the fulfillment of what God says and what God promises. Keepin’ on keepin’ on, because He is faithful and nothing is to hard for our God.

In hope [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.

(Romans 4:18-21 ESV)

Fully convinced that God is able to do.

As He said. As He promised.

By His grace. For His glory.

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One From Beyond

Law of first mention kicked in this morning. Something I was taught early on as a Christian. Take note of the first mention of things in the Bible, as it might be instructive. And, to my recollection, I don’t think I’ve every really taken note of the first mention of the term Hebrew.

They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way. Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram.

(Genesis 14:12-13 ESV)

Don’t think I’ve ever noticed that the term Hebrew is used even before there was a nation of Israel. Next time it’s used in Genesis, it’s used to refer to Joseph the Hebrew (Gen. 39:14), one of the sons of Jacob, a founding pillar of Israel, the Hebrew nation. I think I’ve always assumed that Hebrew was always just another word for Israelite. But here Abram is being called a Hebrew before there was even a lineage defined as being of Israel.

That’s what caught my attention this morning. Don’t know why. (Though I kinda do . . . encounters of the divine kind are prone to happen when the Spirit of revelation is illuminating Scripture and leading us into all truth).

So what’s the deal?

I pull up my handy dandy online lexicon and I find out that the word Hebrew comes from Eber, who was an ancestor of Abram (Gen. 11:14-16). But more importantly, I look up its literal meaning and I’m thinking, maybe I’m a Hebrew too!

Literally, Eber means “the region beyond.” Thus, a Hebrew, literally, is “one from beyond.”

Abram was known as the one from beyond. Sure, Abram was living in Canaan, but he wasn’t from these parts. He lived nextdoor to Mamre the Amorite, but he was different than his neighbor. Talked different, walked different, worshiped different. He was Abram, the one from beyond.

And I’m thinking, me too! In the world, but not of the world. I’m also one from beyond.

Once beyond hope, “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).

Beyond justification. My transgressions against a holy God far greater than anything I could do to make them right or atone for. The wages of sin having bankrupted me. My nature so corrupted, that even if past sins were paid for, I had nothing in me to live forward in holiness and righteousness.

Even, at one time, beyond any desire, in and of myself, to be with God, to cross over the divide of alienation and enter, if even it were possible, the land of reconciliation. Content in my blind rebellion to be an enemy of God.

But while we were yet sinners, seemingly beyond rescue, God showed His love for us. Christ having died for us (Rom. 5:8).

Despite being too weak, beyond strength in our own desires, merit, or effort to cross over from death to life, “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).

Though beyond peace with God because we were at war with God, yet God does the work to reconcile us to Himself by the death of His Son (Rom. 5:10).

And by faith in the finished work of the cross, and the risen life of Christ, we crossed over. Were transferred from “the domain of darkness” to “the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Thus becoming one from beyond.

Once lost, now found. Once far away, now with boldness drawing near. Once a sinner, now a saint. Living in a foreign land as a promised people.

A Hebrew, in a sense.

One from beyond.

By His grace. For His glory.

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God of My Righteousness (A 2014 Remix)

You sense that David was getting some bad press. Not just some people gossiping about his flaws, but enemies spreading out and out lies targeted at his integrity and reputation. They sought to turn his honor into shame. They made up things to make him look bad. And while it caused David some distress (who wouldn’t be distressed?), at the end of the day, he knew relief from the Lord. A joy in his heart. A peace that allowed him to sleep well at night. All because he never forgot that the Lord was the “God of my righteousness.”

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

(Psalm 4:1 ESV)

If David had to rely on his own righteousness in order to defend himself, if it truly was about his own track record, then even this man after God’s own heart was done. He’d have more than enough reason to fret and be discouraged. And his enemies would have more than enough ammunition to accuse him with. But David, before the gospel was even called the gospel, knew the good news that God was, as Spurgeon says, “the Author, the Witness, the Maintainer, the Judge, and the Rewarder of my righteousness.”

David’s righteousness was found in God alone. Only by God’s grace. Only through the future provision of David’s descendant, Jesus, could David confidently claim a righteousness not His own–a righteousness from God, . . . the righteousness of God.

For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

(2Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

Having then this assurance of God’s unmerited cloak of righteousness upon him, David could rest despite his accusers’ claims. He could rest because God would be the Maintainer of his righteousness. Through abiding communion, by means of God’s sanctifying Spirit, David’s boast would continue to be solely in the gracious work of God in his life. By whatever manner his heart was stirred to seek the Lord, to whatever degree he understood the things of God, he would remember that it was only due to the favor shown him by the One who called him out of the sheep’s pasture. Only in the power of the One who enabled him to slay a giant. Due only to the Him who, in Sovereign grace, sets apart the godly for Himself (v.3).

And so, David would know joy and peace (v.7-8) as he remembered that the God of his righteousness is the righteous God, Himself. The God who judges with perfect judgment. The God who rewards with just rewards.

So I’m chewing on the implications of the “God of my righteousness” this morning.

Praise God!

I’m not aware of anyone slandering me today, though there is this persistent, repetitive whisper of an accuser in my ear quick to point out my flaws and failures — very real flaws and failures, I might add. But I also hear another voice. The voice of God’s Spirit, through the truth of God’s word, reminding me that He is my assurance, that He is my defense, that He really is “the Author, the Witness, the Maintainer, the Judge, and the Rewarder of my righteousness.” A righteousness found through Him and in Him alone.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Not the How, but the Who

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. . . And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.

(Genesis 1:1, 31a ESV)

I’m in the camp of those who remind us that if we’re reading Genesis 1 in order to know how everything was created we’re missing the main point. It’s not about the how. It’s all about the Who!

I underlined God a lot this morning in Genesis 1. Twenty-nine times I underlined it. Blue colored-pencil marking up twenty-six of thirty-one verses.

Don’t talk to me about how long a day is or what laws of physics could have factored into something coming out of nothing. Talk to me about the Who. Talk to me about God.

The God who was in the beginning. The God who created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them. The God who said and it was. The God who looked at something He made and then called it by a noun which, by the way, we’ve used ever since as it’s handle.

The God who made. And, who gave everything He made a place and/or a function — a place and/or function that we still benefit from today.

The living God who made living things. And one of those things, us, made in His image.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.”

(Genesis 1:26a ESV)

Made in the likeness of God. The “Us” likeness of God. The “Our image” of God. Made for relationship with a God who has ever been in relationship — the Father having loved the Son since before the foundation of the world (Jn. 17:24) with the Spirit (Gen. 1:2).

The God who saw all that He created and said it was good. Not once, not twice, but seven times. The seventh time exclaiming, “Behold, this is very good!”

That’s how our God rolls.

The Creator of all things. Of all things old, and all things new. His best new creations found in men, women, boys, and girls redeemed through the finished work of the Son on the cross, by the life-giving work of the Spirit taking up residence in those redeemed souls. The fullness of the new creation yet to be fully revealed when the kingdom of heaven, now active by faith, will be the kingdom of heaven on earth . . . a new earth . . . a forever earth.

And that too, my friends, will be very good. Created by our “in the beginning” God. Don’t know exactly when He’s gonna do it or how He’s gonna do it, but praise Him that I know that He’s the One who will do it.

Don’t know what 2020, or this next decade (or, for that matter, tomorrow), has in store. But I know Who is creating, making all things new, and in control according to His steadfast love and His sovereign purposes.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Put Me to the Test

I don’t know if I have ever actually finished my annual reading plan on the last day of the year (after all, my reading plan says I should have finished it five days ago). But Christmas and end of year activities have pretty much disrupted routine for the past week or so.

Thus, here I sit, on the last day of the year, on the last day of the decade, and hover over the last readings of 2019.

Revelation 22 providing me a glimpse of the hope that is ours through the provision and promise of God.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

(Revelation 22:20 ESV)

John’s gospel asking me, three times, if I love the Lord Jesus. And then reminding me that beyond the confession of my love, the Master asks me to demonstrate that love by walking in the way He has chosen for me, doing what He’s asked me to do, regardless of the path, or tasks, He has chosen for anyone else.

When Peter saw [John], he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is My will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!

(John 21:21-22 ESV)

And then, there’s Malachi. The last of the prophets. The last word for centuries to sustain a people awaiting Messiah and struggling to live faithfully in light of His coming. (Sound familiar?) And, for me, it brings together the promise of Revelation 22 and the pleading of John 21 with a prodding in Malachi 3.

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And thereby put Me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

(Malachi 3:10 ESV)

“Put Me to the test,” says the LORD of hosts.

They were back in the land. But they were still playing in the world.

They were again going to the temple. But, at best, only half-heartedly. Not regularly. Not purposefully. Not offering the fullness of their firstfruits or the best of their sacrifices. Not really worried that history might somehow repeat itself if they persisted in on-going disobedience.

Though they were living in the reality of the fulfillment of God’s promises made in the past, and hoping in His promises for the future, they just couldn’t muster it up to trust Him wholeheartedly by believing His promises concerning their present.

And so, God says to them, “Put Me to the test.”

See if the abundant life really isn’t found in honoring Me first. See if ain’t so that, when you seek first the kingdom of God, everything you need will be provided (Matt. 6:33). Prove it true, that I really will show Myself faithful to those who are faithful (2Sam 22:26 CSB); that My grace really is sufficient (2Cor. 12:9); and that, in Me, you really are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37). And test the gospel and know that it truly is the power of God for salvation–past, present, and future–to everyone who believes because the righteous really can live by faith (Rom 1:16-17).

I’m coming soon. You follow Me.

So try me in this, that in following Me you will know, even now, the windows of heaven opened up and blessings poured down . . . regardless of what’s going on in your world. Because I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33).

Not a bad thing to be chewing on as we wrap up another year and anticipate yet a new one. As we look back on a decade, of which some life events couldn’t have been imagined ten years ago, and look towards the next ten years knowing that, despite our best plans, we really don’t know what’s in front of us.

Except that we have a sure promise. “Surely I am coming soon!”

Except that we have His steady pleading, “You follow Me!”

And that, if we quiet ourselves and listen, we can hear His soft prodding, “Put Me to the test! Go ahead! See if living for Me, in light of My imminent return, isn’t, in fact, the best way to do life, and life to the full.”

Yes, Lord.

By Your grace. For Your glory.

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Always the Lamb

I think I’ve always had a bit of resistance to leaving baby Jesus in the manger at Christmas. That, for some reason, I’ve needed to remind myself that the idyllic scene I love to imagine through the various nativity displays which are put out at Christmas is but a precursor to the darkness that hung over the cross when the Author of Life was put to death for the sin of the world. That by not lingering too long over that silent night, remembering that He was born to die, I somehow protect myself from ever remaining fixed at Bethlehem and not moving on to Calvary.

But I wonder if I shouldn’t hover more often, and for longer periods of time, on the wonder of Immanuel, God with Us.

If I shouldn’t gaze more intently at the Babe in the manger, in awe that this is He through whom God created the world. That in Mary’s Child, the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, the exact imprint of God’s nature. That even on the night of His birth He was upholding the universe by the word of His power, even while He was yet able to form a word. That He is the radiance of God’s glory, though He emptied Himself of that glory in order to take on the likeness of man and be found in human form. Stepping away from His place over heaven so that He might take on the form of a servant on earth. (Col. 2:9, Heb. 1:1-3, Php. 2:6-8)

And what’s got me thinking about being more okay with lingering longer over the Christ child is my reading in Revelation 21 this morning where, when all is said and done–when the final battle has been fought, when the enemy is forever cast down, when sin is finally judged, when the new heavens and new earth are a reality–Jesus is always the Lamb.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

(Revelation 21:22-23 ESV)

Twenty-seven times in Revelation (only twice in the rest of the NT) the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, is seen as the Lamb. Literally as the lamb-kin, the little Lamb.

His humility in coming in flesh forever on display in heaven. His lowliness and meekness eternally portrayed as He is beheld as the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 5:9, 5:12, 13:8).

Those in relationship to Him for eternity, are there in relationship with the Lamb. There because their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Their robes made white, the victory theirs, because of the blood of the Lamb. To be known forever as the bride of the Lamb. Singing forever the song of the Lamb . . . in the temple of the Lamb . . . lit by the light of the glory of the Lamb.

So, I’m thinking to myself, “Self, if the humility of the Son of God come to be the Lamb of God will be worth considering for eternity, then maybe, just maybe, spending some extended time in quiet, un-rushed awe, over the Son of God come as the son of Mary, might be appropriate for a season.

Always the Lamb.

Praise God for the Child!

O come let us adore Him!

Because of grace. For His glory.

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